A BRAWL that took place in broad daylight on the streets of Ennis was widely condemned at a meeting this week of the Clare Joint Police Committee (JPC). Several members expressed fears about activities in the county town center since the onset of the pandemic, which has seen the introduction of pedestrianization on O’Connell Street and reduced footfall as people work from home. .
Clare’s Garda chief also admitted that pressure to staff road checkpoints had reduced the force’s presence in the city.
However, he vowed to increase the Gardaí’s visibility on the streets as restrictions are eased.
Clare County Council’s Cathaoirleach, Mary Howard referred to images circulating on social media that appear to show two young men fighting at Darcy’s Corner, a busy intersection in the heart of the city.
Despite the presence of onlookers, the men can be seen leaving the sidewalk and exchanging blows in the middle of the road, before leaving the area.
“They had no local accents,” said Councilmember Howard. “They were definitely from Limerick City. This is a busy junction, the optics are terrible. ”
The Ennis representative added that downtown merchants were increasingly alarmed by an increase in antisocial behavior.
“People need to know that when they return to their stores to offer Click and Collect, they and their customers will be safe,” he said.
“An individual merchant may be alone inside their door and may not have a second set of hands to dial 999.”
In relation to begging, Councilor Howard urged people to give them food, rather than money.
“If you give money, they will drink it,” he said. “We need a zero tolerance approach, because some people are very aggressive.”
Councilmember Ann Norton agreed that the lack of foot patrols is cause for concern.
“We are told that drugs are sold quite blatantly,” he said.
“People are begging and I don’t think they are local. Others drink and harass people. “
Pedestrianization has made this worse. People are scared and we cannot allow this to happen on the main street of our county town. We don’t want a bad reputation and we want to welcome people when the restrictions are lifted. “
Councilmember Pat Daly said “hitting in the street” is the only answer. “30 or 40 years ago, if there was a line in an alley, the Gardaí would know in minutes.”
Chief Superintendent Colleran acknowledged members’ concerns, but said there was no evidence of “professional begging.”
“There are several people who congregate in Ennis regardless of pedestrianization,” he said.
“They have committed various crimes and have harassed people. Almost all have been in court, some on multiple occasions.
“As a gardaí, we have no control over what the court decides, other than articulating the evidence.
“Everyone would like to increase [Garda] visibility, but we’ve stretched over the past 12 months to enforce travel restrictions. Increasing visibility is one of our key goals.
“I hope that once there is a reduction in the pressure to have checkpoints, that will allow more Gardaí to patrol.”